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Why we’re all still so hung up on Madonna





Nobody should be deluded that Madonna is just a pop star. Or that the vitriol poured on her by sections of the media as she turned 50 has to do with another superstar going off the boil. Or that she was simply being devoured by the beast that created her in the first place. So, some said she wasn’t wearing the best? That’s the usual misogyny.

Influence aside, Madonna isn’t Britney any more than she is Kylie. She is from an entirely different universe.

She wasn’t wanted in the first place. She wasn’t manufactured. They said she couldn’t sing, wasn’t conventionally good-looking and couldn’t act.

But as soon as the public clocked her, the war was over.

Madonna is still doing what she did 25 years ago — changing the face of popular music, racking up credibility as a musician, songwriter and performer almost on a par with the best there has ever been and generating hit after global hit.

Fact is, not even male icons have stayed at the front of popular culture the way she has.

Prince? Dead and gone. Bowie? Comes around once every 10 years. Elton? Everybody’s granny. Bruce? Nostalgia central. Michael Jackson? Fruitcake.

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Uniquely, Madonna brought fashion, lifestyle, an aggressive feminism — these things went straight to the heart of women’s experience and they have helped to shape it in a way that has made the “Madonna” brand so much a part of the identity of women under 50.

When people use the word ‘attitude’, it’s because Madonna invented it.

So it’s no surprise that the media — run by men — and “opinion-formers” — mostly men — just can’t get their head around it.

They don’t like it, they don’t understand it, are a bit frightened of it and would much rather it just went away.

These things are important. Madonna isn’t Petula Clark or Dionne Warwick. From day one, she was a full package of a way of living.

A way of talking to people, of expressing an opinion, of throwing off the shackles. It was Papa Don’t Preach; Express Yourself; Live To Tell; Material Girl

She took up positions — physical and emotional — which were way beyond what most girls or women would have dreamed of doing themselves.

For the first time in mainstream culture, she brought religious symbolism into pop music. Certainly, this was controversial, but mostly because it was so new and so potent, rather than for any real ‘blasphemy’ or sacrilege.

And given the scandals which have rocked the Catholic Church of her upbringing and the dissension on sexual morality which has riven Anglicanism, Madonna’s musings on the simple icons of her culture seem more a positive recognition of the emotional power of Christianity than ridicule of it.

So extreme was her impact that even now it would take a massive pressure for “ordinary” women to be as radical as Madonna was and remains.

But they know that it was important that she did and said what she did and said, because it loosened up their own possibilties for behaviour.

There have been personalities who have done some of this for some of the people for some time. But then they stop doing it.

Madonna has been doing it for 25 years solid. If there are generations of young women that she can’t get at directly — and that is questionable given the huge volume of global sales of her albums — she gets them through the all-pervasive influence of her musical styles.

And, yes, her attitude — which has influenced younger women musicians and songwriters.

The watermark was when she turned 40 — that was supposed to be the end of her creativity and influence.

Ten years on and they’re still rehearsing the usual stuff about how ragged she looks, how old she is and how irrelevant she’ll soon be.

The people who don’t like Madonna had better get used to it, because we’re living in a society now that’s less about Madonna’s age and more about the Age of Madonna.

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